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Terps Buy Time For Offense

The true indictment could not be found on the final stat sheet, the one that revealed Maryland shot 31.5 percent from the field and 19.2 percent from three-point range Saturday against Georgia Tech. Those numbers were horrid, sure. They led Coach Gary Williams to say, in jest, that there were times during the game when he wished his players would abandon shooting the ball altogether.

Rather, the most vivid reflection of the Terrapins’ offensive ineptitude in its ACC opener was present on nearly every Maryland half-court possession.

“We were taking pretty good shots,” said junior guard Eric Hayes, who shot 6-for-16 from the field and finished with a game-high 17 points. “They were kind of playing off us. We were taking the shots; we just weren’t making them.”

Indeed, a Georgia Tech squad that resides in the middle of the ACC pack when it comes to limiting opponents’ shot conversions determined the best method of befuddling the Terrapins on offense was to give Maryland’s shooters a little extra space. Rarely did a Yellow Jacket defender employ the type of face guarding that makes it difficult for an offensive player to breathe, much less get off a shot.

Despite facing what could be considered a blatant slight, the Terrapins did little in the first half to make Georgia Tech pay for its bold approach. Junior guard Greivis Vasquez first shot attempt of the afternoon was a three-pointer that fell short of the rim. Senior forward Dave Neal missed all five of his three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Adrian Bowie and Hayes shot a combined 1-for-12 from the field.

The second half was well under way before Maryland found its collective stroke, a discovery that contributed to its comeback win.

While the Terrapins’ performance Saturday might have been an extreme example of their potential for offensive sterility, it also reemphasized how critical a role the team’s transition attack plays in keeping Maryland in contention until its shots eventually begin to fall.

“We can shoot the ball, obviously, much better than that,” Williams said. “We’ve got to work on that. But I think it’s one of those things where I think it might have been a little bit of a hangover from the Morgan State game where, you know, these are kids and confidence comes and goes.

“We had to play through getting back our confidence today, I felt. And once some good things happened to us, I thought we played really well down the stretch when we had to to win the game.”

But before Maryland erased a 10-point deficit with a 15-2 run in the second half, the Terrapins had to find a way to mask their shooting woes. Georgia Tech lent a hand by tallying 18 turnovers before the intermission, which offered Maryland numerous opportunities to score on the run.

“If we play good defense, we just start scoring out of nowhere,” junior forward Landon Milbourne said. “That's just how our team works sometimes. So now that we've figured that out we just gotta keep it consistent. We got to start playing like that. We got to start playing off of our defense, off of our press, getting steals, getting out in the open and getting our transition going and getting lay-ups and easy jump shots and keep doing that.”

Following a turnover by Georgia Tech guard Lewis Clinch with just less than nine minutes remaining in the first half and Maryland down by three, Hayes took the inbound pass and soon was swarmed by two defenders. Hayes dribbled to his left, then back to his right, but a seam never opened. Eventually, Vasquez retreated back across mid-court, but he was guarded tightly and a pass to him would have been ill-advised.

Instead, Hayes launched a cross-court pass to sophomore forward Dino Gregory, who was standing out on the wing near Maryland’s basket. Gregory turned and rifled a pass to Vasquez, who by that point was charging into the lane. Vasquez’s ensuing lay-up cut the Terrapins’ deficit to one point. The whole sequence lasted roughly five seconds.

Maryland’s numerous fast break opportunities kept Georgia Tech’s lead from expanding beyond reach. At halftime, the Terrapins trailed by just five points despite shooting 25.0 percent from the field and 7.1 percent (1-for-14) from three-point range.

“We’re good when we look to go inside or take the ball to the basket first and then you settle for the open jump shot,” Williams said. “I thought a couple times early in the game, we were too quick to shoot. And you know, there’s a fine line there. You don’t want to mess with someone’s confidence, but you try to get them to understand time and score situations. Once you get that, you start really rolling like a machine with your offense. You’re pretty tough to stop.”

With 7:50 remaining in the game and Maryland trailing by five, Vasquez pump-faked from the corner, drove toward the lane and then tossed a pass to Hayes in the opposite corner. He connected.

Sometimes, Williams has said, it takes the sight of just one shot falling through the net to revive a player’s confidence.

On the following Maryland possession, Vasquez pump-faked again, drove to toward the basket and then dished to Hayes. Another three-pointer. The Terrapins were up by one. Next time down, a lay-up by Hayes extended the lead to three.

Having accumulated some momentum, Maryland’s offense finally began to click. That combined with a continuously-stifling Terrapins press defense caused Georgia Tech to wilt. As it had on several previous occasions already this season, Maryland’s transition scoring bought the team’s shooters enough time to break out of their ruts and contribute to a late, lead-claiming push.

Whether that policy will guide Maryland effectively through the remainder of the season remains to be seen.

“I mean, I don't know if it will be enough,” Hayes said after a Jan. 3 win over Charlotte in which the Terrapins employed much the same pattern. “Some of the games, we're going to need to have a complete game of half-court offense and transition, but I think if we're doing that well enough, you know, it can take us a long way.”

By Steve Yanda  |  January 12, 2009; 7:13 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

Where is that Tar Heel troll? At least the Terps are ahead of the Heels in the ACC. Terps 1 - 0...Heels 0 - 2.

Posted by: Trippey | January 12, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Terps need to do a few things that would help the lack of inside game.ATTACK the basket, this will get opponents bigs in foul trouble and get us to the FT line, where we are really good also help current woeful overall and three point shooting by kicking the ball out to Hayes,Vasques,Kim, who needs more PT, he played hard on saturday.PRESS as much as possible,it wears other teams down,gives us chances to make the game more hectic and create extra possessions for the offense,(commonly needed to score points according to james naismith).if we focus on what we do well and try to force teams into our style of fast paced play i think we stand a much better chance against heavyweights in the ACC. this should help us get get 8 more wins in conference, and we are really going to each win this year.

Posted by: toddwhite2004 | January 12, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

What kinds of things do teams to in order to shoot better, other than shooting a lot in practice? Can someone from the Post expound on why Maryland has had such struggles from beyond the three-point line in the past few years, even when we've had players who seem like they should be good at taking distance shots?

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 13, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

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